On last night’s episode of Parenthood, accurately and helpfully titled “Do Not Sleep With Your Autistic Nephew’s Therapist,” the cast put on a clinic in getting angry in convincing and tear-jerking ways. Before dissecting all of the very plausible yelling that went down, a little background. Previously on Parenthood: John Corbett showed up as Amber (Mae Whitman) and Drew’s rock-and-roll, negligent, formerly alcoholic father, much to Drew’s delight and Amber’s trepidation. Also, Crosby (Dax Shepard), after fighting with his fiancée and baby mama Jasmine (Joy Bryant), slept with Gabby (Minka Kelly), his autistic nephew Max’s titular therapist. Last night, all of this came to a head, with Max’s father, Adam (Peter Krause), laying into Crosby, Jasmine laying into Crosby, and Gabby laying into Crosby, and then, unrelated, and best of all, Amber laying into her dad. We rank them all after the jump.
Before diving in, we want to note that there were two additional great getting-angry scenes in last night’s episode, but both of those happened without voices being raised, so we won’t include them. But honorable mention to Sarah (Lauren Graham) insisting Corbett’s character say bye to his kids himself, and to Camille for telling Julia to stop letting her 6-year-old boss her around. Okay! On with it.
7. Gabby (Minka Kelly) explains to Crosby why she can’t go back to working with Max — “Because I like you” — by raising her voice. As anyone who has watched Kelly on Friday Night Lights knows, this is about as worked up and serious actor-y as Kelly gets.
6. Max has a tantrum after his mother turns off the TV. Would be higher up if Max didn’t have such similar riveting and upsetting tantrums just about every episode.
5. Unlike his sister Amber, Drew is a quiet kid. That he’s willing to have a fight with his sister over his dad — and in a heartbreaking reversal of the natural order of things, be so concerned about protecting his father’s feelings, as opposed to vice versa — shows just how much he cares. Also showcased here, show-runner Jason Katims’s (also of Friday Night Lights) trademark naturalistic “have actors talk over each other when they’re mad” thing.
4. The second Adam-Crosby fight of the night is not quite as good as the first, but is more important to the plot, as it leads to Max overhearing his father saying that he has Asperger’s.
3. Bro fight! Adam and Crosby believably get into it on the basketball court, in their first knock-down drag out of the episode. The best part comes when older brother Adam asks Crosby if he’s really leaving, and Crosby annoyingly, perfectly replies, “No, I’m fake leaving,” as he walks away.
2. Crosby tells Jasmine he cheated. She does not take it well. Things are thrown, assholes are called out, and forgiveness is taken off the table. It’s pretty much what he deserves.
1. Last year we named Mae Whitman the best crier on television. Not for nothing, people. This season on Parenthood, Whitman’s character Amber has been back-burnered a bit (our theory is that she was so wildly out-acting her cousin, Hattie, on the first season that the writers attempted to rectify the imbalance by giving Hattie more screen time at Amber’s expense), but when asked to deliver, she still talk-cries better than anyone in the game. Almost nothing in this speech is original — it’s pretty textbook “what people wish they could say to their deadbeat dad, but are only articulate enough to say in fiction,” speech — but it doesn’t matter at all. Kleenex time.